Neil Patel, of KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg, recently wrote an article on why companies should not hire consultants. While he presents sound arguments I agree with, in my opinion he offers the wrong conclusion.
In essence he was correct in saying that consultants will never be able to save a flawed business or faulty product. Marketing consultants aren’t wizards and even if they were, it’ll take more than a Gandalf-for-hire to market a product no one wants.
However, it was in the recommendations of things companies should do instead of hiring consultants that I found myself disagreeing. I didn’t disagree on the recommendations themselves, but I do think the implied effectiveness of the recommendations are too idealistic.
The Problems With Patel’s Recommendations
Neil recommends companies forgo hiring consultants in the early stages, instead opting for a recent college graduate or intern to start the ball rolling. While you can get an inexpensive hire to spearhead your marketing efforts, do you really want to go that direction?
For small companies with tight budgets, Neil's recommendations are spot on. Consultants are expensive and their solutions won't take effect overnight. Finding a way to do marketing in-house is by far the best solution and someone who knows enough about blogging or internet marketing could have a positive effect on your business.
Should You Hire a Consultant?
As the Inbound Marketing Artist at Lean Labs, I spend most of my time helping other companies with their inbound efforts. Most of our clients hire us to kickstart their marketing efforts, rather than rescuing them from the abyss of ineffectiveness.
In my opinion consultants are more valuable in the early stages as teachers rather than later as rescuers. This is my main disagreement with Neil’s post.
We’ve worked with companies who are just getting started, and we have clients that have asked us to come in and revamp their marketing efforts. What we’ve found is that a consultant can save a company a lot of money, effort, and growing pains by getting them involved earlier rather than later.
When You Should Hire a Consultant
Marketing is not a sprint or even a marathon, it’s a way of life. It’s a culture.
Hiring a consultant to get a fast injection of traffic won’t do you a lot of good 5 years from now. If you can’t replicate what they did for you, you’ll just have to hire them again. Conversely, hiring a consultant to train your staff on how to get good traffic on-going will dramatically impact your business 5 years from now.
Consultants shouldn’t be hired to deliver results, they should be hired to show you how to get those results.
This is why I disagree with Patel’s argument that consultants should come later. The ROI is significantly increased if a consultant is hired in the early stages, setting the tone for the marketing culture to come.
Neil's post was targeting startups, and his advice is great for new companies with limited budgets. If you haven’t been able to validate your product with the public, and you aren’t sure there’s a market for it, the last thing you need to waste money on is a consultant.
Of the companies that approach us, less than half are a good fit to do business with us. That means nearly 60% of people who think they need a consutlant, in our opinion do not. That doesn't mean all companies are better off without a consultant. It means you have to figure out what's best for your company.
Companies with a viable product who are looking to scale their customer base can profit the most from consultants in the early stages. Your employees can receive hands-on training, your website can get a fresh perspective from an expert, and your content can be optimized from the very beginning.
Starting out with a sound strategy not only affects your business in the present, it will have a compounding effect on everything you do in the future as well.